Fair honors county’s veterans

TROY – Powerful. Inspirational. Emotional. Excellent. Those are just a few words used to describe the Miami County Fair Veterans Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 14.

Sunday was Veterans and First Responders Day which honored veterans, first responders, and their spouses by offering free admission.

The ceremony began at 2 p.m. and started with a presentation of colors by the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad. Following this, was opening remarks by Ted Miller.

“The ceremony is to emphasize what we did as veterans, no matter what you served in. We want to thank all of you,” stated Miller.

Commissioner Gregory Simmons spoke next for the invocation. “I want to thank you for your service and your sacrifice. I want to thank all of the families of our service men and women for all the missed birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and all the other important moments,” said Simmons.

C Baccus & Company performed the National Anthem and America. The ceremony featured guest speaker, John Bankowitz. Bankowitz is a veteran himself and serves as museum curator for the Miami Valley Veterans Museum. He was instrumental in the creation of Miami Valley Young Marines, which was formally named Dayton Young Marines. The program teaches values of leadership, moral responsibilities, and academic achievement while striving to create a drug-free lifestyle. Bankowitz is involved in the veteran community through several organizations.

“I’m always giving back because some of our brothers and sisters never came back. Live our lives to the fullest and serve others to honor their sacrifices,” commented Bankowitz.

Following the guest speaker, the Miami County Equestrian Drill Team participated in the Armed Forces Salute which displays the flags of various branches. Members of those branches are encouraged to stand during those flag displays.

A POW/MIA presentation, Volley of Honor, and Taps were next which were performed by the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad.

Prior and following the ceremony, a resource fair for veterans including the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Office of the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel, the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support, and Rolling Thunder Inc. Ohio Chapter 10.

Rolling Thunder had information presented on Prisoners of War – Missing In Action (POW/MIA) of all wars. Their goal is spreading awareness, educating and spreading educational materials, and veteran outreach. This was their first year at the Miami County Fair. Rolling Thunder will be hosting a Remembrance Ride on Aug. 27 at 1 p.m. with a return time of 4:30 p.m. at the Piqua Harley Davidson. Registration starts at 10:30 a.m. and is $20 per vehicle.

Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support worked with other organizations to host the resource fair at the event. “Our primary focus, as an organization, is community outreach by reaching out to veterans and connecting them to the resources they need,” stated Director Valerie Mullikin.

“Our organization recently suffered a major loss. Tamara Westfall passed away suddenly. Tammy was instrumental in this organization becoming what it is now,” Mullikin said. Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support hosts a monthly Muster and Mingle event to provide meals to veterans and their caregivers or spouses and includes a guest speaker to discuss resources. The next event will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 31 at the Tipp Center.

“It’s a nice social event to meet people. It’s a very good thing to help each other and to learn more about each other,” commented Roger Jones, a veteran who spoke about the Muster and Mingle events. In response to what programs like the Miami County Fair Veterans Ceremony means to him, Jones teared up and Mullikin responded for him saying, “It means the world. Vietnam vets didn’t get a welcome home. It means they’re valued and respected. It means the world.”

Other veterans made similar statements about the importance and recognition from these events, including a veteran from Oklahoma who was visiting.

“These programs bring community awareness. The attitudes of veterans have changed over the years,” commented Douglas Jackson.